Republicans are currently engaged in a masterclass in bizarre deflection.
GOP senators in recent days have stretched themselves thin to avoid engaging with calls for Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from Jan. 6-related cases in light of his wife, Ginni Thomas’ explosive pro-coup texts sent to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in the weeks after the 2020 presidential election.
In remarks on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) maintained his defense of Justice Thomas, characterizing calls for his recusal from election cases as part of an “inappropriate pressure campaign” by Democrats.
“It has no basis in Justice Thomas’s decades of impeccable service on the court. The justice and the entire court should feel free to completely ignore all this,” McConnell said.
After praising Justice Thomas as “a great American” and an “outstanding justice,” McConnell knocked calls for his recusal as “clumsy bullying from the political branches” that is “really beyond the pale.”
“Justice Thomas is an exemplary jurist who has modeled fidelity to the rule of law for more than 30 years and counting,” McConnell continued.
McConnell also heartily defended the conservative justice shortly after news broke of his wife’s texts to Meadows.
“Justice Thomas is a great American and an outstanding Justice. I have total confidence in his brilliance and impartiality in every aspect of the work of the Court,” McConnell said in a statement last week.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) ventured out onto a confusing limb to defend Justice Thomas Wednesday when he called demands for his recusal “ridiculous” during an appearance on Fox News.
Hawley took it all in a disingenuously pro-feminist direction. He spun calls for Justice Thomas’ recusal as a misogynistic hit job against the Supreme Court justice’s wife by Democrats.
“The idea that Ginni Thomas is supposed to sign off on her texts and her work with her husband as if he’s in charge of her in some way — isn’t that misogyny? Isn’t that what the Democrats are always saying they’re against?” Hawley said.
Hawley griped that Democrats “will take every avenue” to smear Justice Thomas and called for his fellow Republicans to not stand for it.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) shared a similar sentiment earlier this week as he attempted to cast calls for Justice Thomas’ recusal as an attack against the Thomas family as a whole.
“I just think this is a bad development where now public officials’ families are now the target of all this press,” Cornyn said, adding that public officials “don’t volunteer to have our families dragged through the mud,” as if he’s never heard the name Hunter Biden.
Republican senators’ defense of Justice Thomas amid furor over his wife’s pro-coup texts have looked largely like a distraction campaign to avoid engaging seriously with the SCOTUS recusal process as a whole. But it also looks like an effort to ignore questions about potential conflicts of interest that her conservative activism presents as her husband hears cases related to last year’s deadly Capitol insurrection and efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
Last weekend, Senate Judiciary Democrats, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), demanded Justice Thomas recuse himself from election cases.
“The facts are clear here. This is unbelievable. You have the wife of a sitting Supreme Court justice advocating for an insurrection, advocating for overturning a legal election to the sitting president’s chief of staff and she also knows this election, these cases, are going to come before her husband,” Klobuchar told ABC News on Sunday. “This is a textbook case for removing him, recusing him from these decisions.”
Democrats have continued their calls for recusal in recent days. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters on Wednesday that Justice Thomas “should recuse himself” from Jan. 6 related cases because “the information we know right now raises serious questions about how close Justice Thomas and his wife were to the planning and execution of the insurrection.”